Reworking the Outdoors In

The bulk of my paintings subscribe to a simple truism: what happens outside stays outside.

Sometimes, there is an exception.

I was so taken by the Redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants that I knew I must paint the area in my sketchbook. Being more of the big sky, vista type, I knew that close in paintings of tree trunks would smother me and drive me mad. We found a rest area with a view in Humboldt Redwoods State Park near where "the" 211 meets "the" 101 at the Eel River fork. I liked the foggy softness of the distance, the silhouette of the tall trees which were made smaller, and the primitive road perched on the edge of the mountain.

Frustrated, I could not convey the gray of the day, which went along with the gray of the week, with the pastels I had. After coming home and using just the new Maggie Price grays from Terry Ludwig, I was able to drastically bring down the key (brightness/saturation) to match the overcast day.

Near the Eel River Fork
5x8.5" on Wallis Belgian Mist

It went from garish to subtle, although some of the original brights peek through pleasingly.

Pastels can be blended to a degree, but they are not like oils, acrylics, or watercolors where they can be toned down easily. With tubed paints, for example, if the blue is too bright, you add a little something from the orange family (its compliment on the color wheel) to gray it out; it is my habit to do that with almost every blue I mix. With pastels, sometimes you can juxtapose the blue and orange next to each other or on top of each other to tone them down, but sometimes that won't work either.

I love the pure, vibrant color of pastels and it is wonderful to now have more tools in my chest to keep the key balanced. Pastels use exactly the same pigments as tubed paints and the trick is in being able to apply them effectively despite their non-fluid state. Pastelists make the powder work for them. And there's always another set to be had. This Maggie Price/Terry Ludwig one is a must have which would have improved this whole series of paintings under overcast skies.


Anonymous said...

Good evening,

I found your blogspot through a post of yours. Will so enjoy looking and reading here!

Thought you might also enjoy the blogspot of Bill Cone. Wonderful west coast person, very generous in his knowledge of pastels.

But wanted to say hi and have enjoyed viewing your paintings.

Anonymous said...

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